The best games writing from around the web.
The Weekly is your round-up of all the best in games writing and related spaces. Reviews, news, features, and more await you each week as the curators of Good Games Writing scour the Internet for the best of the best. Some themes are for older audiences.
In gaming news this week it was Gamescom that took the cake — you can read highlights from Start Menu and The Washington Post–with a slew of reveals and game play showcases. Epic also sort of got a win against Apple with a court ordered injunction against limiting the Unreal Engine on the App Store. However, it once again felt like a week where gaming took the back seat to the reality of ongoing police brutality and the execution of protesters by a 17-year old gunman. Major sporting leagues took a pause to call for racial equality — pausing two championship series in the NBA and, later, the NHL. The week drew to a close with the death of Chadwick Boseman whose four year battle with cancer came as a shock to the public.
First, check this out
By the time you’re reading this Fanbyte‘s 24 hour livestream in support of The Bail Project will be underway. There’s plenty of Jackbox, Monster Hunter, and Clubhouse Games to be had.
Reporting and the like
Kicking off our reporting segment is again an opinion piece that informs in such a way that it’s hard to put it anywhere else. At Polygon, Chris Plante recaps the week’s sporting news, largely concentrating on the NBA and WNBA, while noting the similarities between sports fandoms and gaming’s many communities. In doing so, he raises discussions around labour issues in gaming, the media’s coziness with publishers, and the (relative) lack of agency game makers possess opposed to star athletes. It’s a read that left us thinking and we believe you’ll feel the same upon reflection.
Over on Vice, Patrick Klepek reminds us about the time the Internet freaked out about a potential alien penis appearing in Halo 3, detailing the investigation that followed. Additional context around past controversies–including a sneaky butt shot–brings the story to life.
Animal Crossing returns to the Weekly with reporting from Jay Castello on how the game’s customization tools are being used by players to make the game more accessible. While much of the story is aimed at gamers with visual impairments there are broad lessons to be learned and room to criticize Nintendo for putting the onus on gamers to bring accessibility to the forefront.
While it’s not strictly gaming related, this WIRED feature on a modified take on virtual reality being used on flies to learn about vision (theirs and ours) captured our imaginations. Optical illusions, turning off neurons, and MRIs are all used in the study to better understand not just vision but behaviour.
Reviews & Criticism
A number of interesting pieces pulled back the layers of games in interesting ways this past week, though none more so than the literal undressing of Alan Wake on Paste. “Storytelling through fabric” is the angle Jessica Howard takes on the eponymous character and his ever changing wardrobe choices and the reflection of the man beneath.
Tell Me Why‘s refusal to be daring is at the centre of Dia Lacina’s critique of the game.
Tyler Ronan is a transgender man, which is daring. Or it would be, even when trans characters exist in video games (or any other media) typically it’s trans women on display. But as with everything else, it’s too safe. I know it will resonate with other critics, and that many trans players will respond positively to it. They’re not wrong to do that. But “the representation” in Tell Me Why also comes across as too practiced, almost unctuous.
If Found makes it way back to our round-up with a review from Dr Lloyd (Meadhbh) Houston on Eurogamer. There, the concept of erasure is explained, grounding the critique in place (Ireland) while exploring the game’s mechanics around the in-game diary. That a historian is tackling this review makes it both intimate and distance; there is a personal connection featured in the review, but it further legitimizes itself in talking process.
While we’ve been obsessing over Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso, another piece of media that blends soccer and silliness has arrived in the form of Captain Tsubasa: Rise Of New Champions. Stacey Henley grapples with the game’s misplaced strengths: It’s a soccer game but it’s not a particularly strong one mechanically. There’s plenty of good to be had, it seems, so there’s that if you were looking forward to this one.
At Fanbyte, Kenneth Shepard responds to the acknowledgment of the next Dragon Age game at Gamescom, dismayed by an early piece of marketing as it relates to the franchise at large.
The more Dragon Age expands as a franchise, the more it’s lost sight of the importance of the people who live in this vast world.
We can’t name a more definitive expert on all things Dragon Age, by the by, so we’re taking this as gospel.
Finally, our essential read of the week (and we’re aware it came out a few weeks ago) goes to Andrew Kiya’s sprawling critique of Ghost of Tsushima tackles bushido, ultranationalism, the sterilization of history (and media), and myth. One myth overrides them all–and must in the current global context–that fascism is dead and gone. If we needed any reminders that wasn’t the case the past week’s headlines would certainly prove otherwise.
Odds & Ends
A few miscellaneous pieces to highlight this week.
We enjoyed reading this take on writing video games and the responsibilities writers have in creating player agency, making mechanics feel relevant, building franchises, and much more. We appreciated grounding it with references to games like Mirror’s Edge, God of War, and Control.
World of Warcraft‘s revamp of its leveling system for new players is somewhat mystifying according to Heather Newman:
You’re hailed as a conquering hero in every interaction, which doesn’t exactly seem deserved for killing a few zombies and ogres in the starting experience. You reach maximum level knowing hardly any of WoW’s enduring storylines, unable to interpret experienced players’ repertoire of inside jokes and memes. You are a stranger in a strange land.
The Pokemon Trading Card Game has always been something of a foreign novelty to our team: We know it exists, we get the thrust, and…that’s it. Mia Honey has changed that with a wonderful explainer on the the concept aimed at bridging video game fans who look at the cards and go “huh” skillfully making the case about why you should take the leap.
And, to close out the week, we learned about Moon in this combination retrospective/preview of the Switch’s release. The article makes no bones (pun intended) that fans of Undertale will have something to love here but even if that doesn’t describe you, there’s good reason to read: Moon released in 1997 and its path to an English localization is fascinating.
Castello, Jay. “How Animal Crossing: New Horizons Players Use The Game’s Customization To Make It More Accessible” (Kotaku: August 26, 2020) <kotaku.com/how-animal-crossing-new-horizons-players-use-the-game-1844843087>.
Henley, Stacey. “‘Captain Tsubasa: Rise Of New Champions’ review: an absolute joy, except for the football| (NME: August 28, 2020) <www.nme.com/reviews/game-reviews/captain-tsubasa-rise-of-new-champions-review-an-absolute-joy-except-for-the-football-2739856>.
Homan, Danny. “Heavy Lifting: Meta-Responsibilities of a Game Writer” (Gamasutra: August 25, 2020) <gamasutra.com/blogs/DannyHoman/20200825/368775/Heavy_Lifting_MetaResponsibilities_of_a_Game_Writer.php>.
Honey, Mia. “The Pokémon Trading Card Game is a perfect evolution of the video games” (Dicebreaker: August 18, 2020) <www.dicebreaker.com/games/pokemon-trading-card-game/opinion/pokemon-tcg-evolution-video-games>.
Houston, Dr. Lloyd Meadhbh. “Erasing Erasure in If Found…” (Eurogamer: August 29, 2020) <www.eurogamer.net/articles/2020-08-29-erasing-erasure-in-if-found>.
Howard, Jessica. “The Many Layers of Alan Wake” (Paste: August 25, 2020) <www.pastemagazine.com/games/alan-wake/the-many-layers-of-alan-wake/>.
Huckins, Grace. “What Virtual Reality for Flies Teaches Us About Human Vision” (WIRED: August 28, 2020) <www.wired.com/story/what-virtual-reality-for-flies-teaches-us-about-human-vision/>.
Kiya, Andrew. “The Spectre of Fascism” (Bullet Points: August 6th, 2020) <bulletpointsmonthly.com/2020/08/06/spectre-of-fascism-ghost-of-tsushima>.
Klepek, Patrick. “How an Alleged Dick in a ‘Halo 3’ Trailer Started an Emergency at Bungie ” (Vice: August 24, 2020 ) <www.vice.com/en_us/article/7kpqy9/how-an-alleged-dick-in-a-halo-3-trailer-started-an-emergency-at-bungie>.
Lacina, Dia, “‘Tell Me Why’ Smothers Its Representation in Bubble Wrap ” (Vice: August 27, 2020 ) <www.vice.com/en_us/article/y3z4vg/tell-me-why-smothers-its-representation-in-bubble-wrap>.
Newman, Heather. “Shadowlands will erase World of Warcraft’s history – that’s a problem” (PCGamesN: August 25, 2020) <www.pcgamesn.com/world-of-warcraft/shadowlands-leveling>.
Oxford, Nadia. “The Story of Moon, the “Anti-RPG” That Inspired Undertale” (USGamer: August 28, 2020) <www.usgamer.net/articles/the-story-of-moon-the-anti-rpg-that-inspired-undertale>.
Plante, Chris. “If video games want to be a force for good, they need to learn from sports ” (Polygon: August 28, 2020) <www.polygon.com/2020/8/28/21405697/nba-players-strike-video-games-union>.
Shepard, Kenneth. “Dragon Age’s Shifting Perspectives Keep Undermining its Personal Stories” (Fanbyte: August 28, 2020) <www.fanbyte.com/trending/dragon-ages-shifting-perspectives-keep-undermining-its-personal-stories/>.